Causes of the Collapse of the USSR
Here and here I argued that there has been an overglorification of the PopeÃ¢€™s role in the demise and collapse of the Soviet Union. While I think that the burden of proof lies with those who claim that the election of Pope John Paul II was Ã¢€œa decisive turning point in the Cold War,Ã¢€ or that Ã¢€œfifty percent of the fall of communism is his doing,Ã¢€ IÃ¢€™ve been challenged to prove my position and below is my attempt.
As I see it, here are the factors (weighted) that contributed to the fall of the USSR:
1. Internal contradictions of the system (40 percent);
2. The US-led arms race (20 percent) — exacerbated #1
3. The Reagan doctrine (20 percent) — spread Soviet resources thin;
4. Loss of faith among the intelligentsia (10 percent) — artists, intellectuals, academics could no longer defend a lie;
5. Loss of faith among the masses (10 percent) — the workerÃ¢€™s paradise proved to be anything but.
The influence of the Pope (which I never said was nonexistent) was a factor in #5, in a single country. I can accept to an extent that Poland was a key country in a Ã¢€œdomino effect,Ã¢€ but there were mass movements in every other Warsaw Pact country as well. While we may want it to be true that a spiritual leader could shake the foundations of an entire system, I simply donÃ¢€™t think the facts bear this out. I went back through my library of books on the subject (both academic and not) and found that half of them do not mention the role of the Pope at all, while the other half mention him once or twice and in passing.
So if you want to cling to the idea that the Pope was instrumental in the fall of communism, thatÃ¢€™s fine with me. I donÃ¢€™t think the facts are on your side. But perhaps I need to answer the question as to why I care. One, I think itÃ¢€™s dangerous to create false myths; do we want future leaders, confronted with authoritarianism, to believe that victory over communism came as the result of prayer and hope, or because of sound policy? Second, as a cradle Catholic I was dismayed at John Paul IIÃ¢€™s constantly calling for non-violence on the part of the West, but I donÃ¢€™t recall him ever confronting the dictators of the Third World. If you believe that poverty in the Third World is the result of tyranny, and you believe that the Pope is empowered to counsel the West, then it was his duty to admonish those responsible for the poverty and enslavement of billions of people. This he never did to my satisfaction.
I should stop here, lest I become OTBÃ¢€™s Paul and get fired.